Fictional Characters with Mental Illness
For many people, myself included, fiction is a method of escape. We find that we connect with fictional characters and their experiences, sharing their failures and triumphs almost as though they are our own. It is for this reason that representation is so important in fiction. Unfortunately, as a little understood and often touchy subject, mental illness is not always shown in relatable or even realistic terms within fictional medias.
I’ve compiled a list of fictional characters who struggle with these overlooked traits, in hopes of steering you towards a character you might can identify with. Characters who struggle with perhaps the same thing as you and I, or someone you know. I’ve done my best to choose characters and stories that represent things accurately, but unfortunately I can’t speak for everyone who experiences these situations. If there is anything you wish to correct or add, please let us know! We’d love to hear from you.
Now, without further ado, a short list of fictional characters I have found who have a mental illness:
Juno Steel--The Penumbra Podcast (Depression)
Juno encompasses a lot of underrepresented groups, in all honesty. But my favorite is how his depression is addressed within the story and outside--by the creators themselves. Juno struggles with a lot of weight on his shoulders and in his heart, sometimes feeling like the good of his entire (very big, very corrupt) Martian city is his responsibility. He’s got a background drenched in traumatizing experiences and a lot of things to blame himself for. With all this in mind, the creators have made it quite clear that Juno’s depression and self-loathing do not stem from these experiences. There’s not always an external trigger for someone’s depression, some event which is the root of everything “wrong” with them. The creators of The Penumbra Podcast acknowledge that and take care to specify that Juno’s depression is a part of him, not a product of his past.
Charlie--The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Depression, PTSD, anxiety)
If you’ve ever seen or read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you hardly need an explanation for this one. The whole point of the story is the main character, Charlie, not only coming to terms with his depression and anxiety, but also learning where they came from in the first place. This is where his PTSD comes in. It is unclear whether or not these other illnesses stem from Charlie’s PTSD, but it is clear that all of them are quite severe.
Buffy Summers--Buffy the Vampire Slayer (PTSD)
That’s right, even Buffy dealt with mental illness. The most glaring issue she struggles with is PTSD. It seems obvious, when you think about everything she’s gone through--she literally kills monsters in her free time! Buffy doesn’t go about her days happy and full of sunshine when she’s not fulfilling her vampire slaying duties, either. Her traumas weigh on her on an undeniably realistic level her fantastical life can’t quite reach. While her experiences may not be relatable, the outcome is.
Alaska Young--Looking For Alaska (Depression)
In John Green’s novel Looking For Alaska, we get an outsider’s point of view of Alaska’s internal struggle. The reader never really gets to know what she’s thinking or how she feels, but we do get to see that she’s not really okay by any means. At first she seems to have a pretty great life. She’s popular, she’s pretty, she seems perfect. The closer the protagonist gets, however, the more he--and we--see how misleading those appearances can be. Alaska is unhappy. She is severely depressed, though no one would guess initially. She is a great example of how nothing has to “happen” to someone for them to be depressed. For this reason, Looking For Alaska really hit home with me.
This is something I am planning on continuing as a series, so keep an eye out for more in the future, and if you have suggestions for future characters, leave them in the comments below. I hope this helps those out there looking to find fictional characters that you can relate to on this level. I know finding them myself has helped me a lot. I recommend everything here if you can find the time.